instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Monday, August 15, 2011

The hermeneutics of Us vs Them

I feel sorry for Ken Trainor, a guest blogger at U.S. Catholic who today tries to pass the torch of his rebellion against the Church to the next generation.

He contrasts "The church of John Paul II and Benedict XVI" with "The church" -- sorry, I mistakenly capitalized "church" there, but I've corrected myself -- "of John XXIII and Vatican II." He speaks of "the official version of the Catholic Church."

He uses the expression "suspicious of institutional religion" twice, both times in the context of "young people" who are "spiritual." In his telling, there are two options for being "spiritual": "a highly structured, hierarchical, institutionalized approach;" and the approach taken by those suspicious of institutional religion, who have "frequently been praised for their strong service values" and whose "hearts are in the right place." (He doesn't say where the hearts of those who are looking for an institutionalized approach are.)

I wondered, as I read his post, whether he was actually speaking for young people. But no; "Ken Trainor [is] a practicing, progressive Catholic, who was 10 years old when Vatican II began."

Nor is there any real sign that he is speaking to young people. I get the sense, rather, that he is speaking to other practicing, progressive Catholics who were ten years old (or older) when Vatican II began -- is it too much to add ", i.e., U.S. Catholic readers"? -- blaming the failure of their "spirit of Vatican II" to catch on with young people on "the current Catholic Church[, which] has been trying its best to sweep [it] under a rug."

He does quote a lengthy passage from Vatican II's "Message to Youth," although even this he chooses to introduce adversarially: "But my guess is that World Youth Day in Madrid this year will not mention John XXIII or Vatican II." What he does not do -- perhaps for practicing, progressive Catholics, it's self-evident -- is point out what part of the passage he quotes the Church of John Paul II and Benedict XVI has been trying to sweep under the rug. (If I had to guess, I'd say it's the "marching on toward human perfection in time" part.)

I've probably made it clear that I don't have much respect for Ken Trainor's position; in fact, I'm a bit surprised that a Catholic website would run such a hackneyed piece of unsubstantiated assertions. But I really do feel sorry for him, and not just because his wish for a thriving unofficial version of the Catholic Church is doomed. (Thriving, unofficial, Catholic: Which two do you want?)

I feel sorry for anyone whose whole concept of the Church as she exists in the world is one of ad intra political conflict between Us and Them. How awful it must be to view the Body of Christ from the perspective of strife and discord! And how far from Jesus' intention when He founded the Church -- yes, on the Rock of Peter, and by the fiat of Mary, and through the evangelism of Paul, and with the contemplation of John.

Us vs Them will kill your soul dead. And the disciples it attracts will be disciples of Us, not of Christ.

UPDATE: U.S. Catholic also runs a piece on how "Millennial Catholics" actually practice their faith. Link via Sherry Weddell of the Catherine of Siena Institute.